Saturday, January 28th, 2023
Saturday, January 28th, 2023

Breaking News for

Sportsmen Since 1967

DNR conservation officer has the right stuff to save a young man’slife

While Minnesotans hunkered down Tuesday evening for the coldest
night

of the season thus far, a Minnesota conservation officer
braved

dangerous temperatures, wind chills and freezing water to rescue
a

teenage boy from almost certain death.

Adam Bolkert, 19, of Winona was taking a shortcut home from
Riverway

Learning Community School when he fell through the ice of
the

Mississippi River backwaters near Minnesota City, Minn.

Bolkert was able to pull himself from the river and found
temporary

refuge on a nearby island where he made a 911 call from his cell
phone

to the Winona County Sheriff’s Office. They contacted Department
of

Natural Resources (DNR) Conservation Officer Tom Hemker of
Winona, who

knew the area the call came from, and possessed the right
equipment to

make a rescue.

“The sheriff’s office has a program that brings up an address
and a

GPS location on all calls, so they pinpointed the location
near

Minnesota City, which I know real well,” Hemker said. “With
that

vital information, and an airboat in tow, I knew we were in
business.”

Hemker made his way to the Pool

5-A landing on the river.

But with 4-6 inches of fresh snow, the airboat was frozen to
the

trailer. Hemker tried to free the airboat

by driving backwards and then slamming on the brakes, but it
didn’t

work.

Two Winona police officers helped push the airboat off the
trailer

while Hemker worked a pry-bar. “I could not have removed the
airboat

from the trailer by myself, I can’t thank those officers
enough.”

With the sun beginning to set, temps dropping fast and the
wind

starting to pick up, Hemker put the airboat into the river and
about 20

minutes later, found a cold, soaked, disoriented Bolkert.

“It was completely dark when I brought him in and the snow
was

swirling to the point where if the rescue had started a
half-hour later

vision would have gone from 50 yards to 10 feet,” Hemeker said.
“You

couldn’t see anything. Absolutely amazing that Adam is
alive.”

A waiting ambulance at the landing met the conservation officer
and

Bolkert. The teen was taken to Community Memorial Hospital in
Winona.

“I was almost afraid to hear what the news was going to be when
I

picked him up, but last I heard he’s going to be fine,” Hemker
said

Hemker said it’s just another example of DNR having the
right

equipment for the job.

“Airboats are the only things can get you into and out of a
situation

like that,” he said. “If DNR didn’t have them, I have no idea
how we

would have rescued him. What an unbelievable piece of
equipment.”

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